For the past two weeks, I have been lost in the proverbial paladrome of KICK ASS at Dave Boushey’s International Stunt School. Most days have consisted of taking and faking hits as we learned various styles of fighting for film. Most nights have involved me dragging my broken body to the nearest bed or couch to fall asleep before I work up the energy to stretch my sore muscles. This is my excuse for not covering the action as it comes bu giving a substandard retrospective.
Attention: this is not a review. And there are spoilers. After having read some of the local reviews, I am concerned that some “critics” no longer know how to watch movies and write reviews, so I am purposefully straying far from that path.
I will not say that The Dark Knight Rises was flawless. My boyfriend attests that its prequel, The Dark Knight was for its comic book/superhero genre. The first act did drag, indulging each character with at least a 30 second pity party if not multiple witty banters over the same subjects. Though I adored Anne Hathway’s CatWoman (and am currently seeking a catsuit replica), her little oneliners got old and failed to fit the dark context. Maybe the beleaguered girl power references belong in something more campy, like Spiderman. We get it- CatWoman is a fucking BAD ASS & happens to be a WOMAN. And once the second act heated up with France’s Revolution, Occupy Wall Street, and Arab Spring all rolled into one, I was left to question some of the finer details. Why did no one think to lie down on the ice, thus spreading one’s surface area to safely disperse weight/ Is a classic stand off between rebels with tanks and unarmored police forces really the best strategy? How did Bruce Wayne make it back from that hole in Wherever, Middle East? And what was the purpose of the poorly choreographed fist-to-cuffs between our hero and villain? With the Batmen series, Nolan has created much more than a superhero movie and therefore will be held to a higher standard of logic, character development, and artistry, which he ultimately fell just short off. Sorry mate- you can never replace Heath Ledger and it wasn’t Inception.
All this being said, the film inspires me to some serious contemplation.
If Occupy Wall Street had evolved into a militarized movement, would we have faced a similar scene to France’s Storming of the Bastille? Is our government so hopelessly broken (and it is broken) that we should cut off the festering wound? In the movie, Bane’s “People’s Revolution” was purely a front, but would it be so far from the truth? I have fallen a bit behind the times in current events, but has any of the countries whose revolutions of 2011 swept us into Arab Spring successfully ended the old regime, the old tendencies of consolidating power and withholding communal needs & human rights? If you want to see a kleptocracy fall, what will rise in its place?
Bruce Wayne is not Batman without his significant resources. In Dark Knight Rises, Bane annihilates Wayne’s investments, a plot device that conveniently strips him of his “1%” status just before Gotham’s quarantine and brief Reign of Terror. Nolan’s plys the audience to accept Batman as one of Us, proving Bruce Wayne fights above and beyond his privilege and providing the symbolic Everyman hero that Americans love so much. But things are never that simple. Even when Bruce Wayne returns with no finances to speak of, all of Batman’s accoutrements, support team, and technologies that rival Iron Man are still available. Even when Bruce Wayne has none of these affects, he still has 7 years of intensive martial arts training over another opponent. And even before this, he probably had the best private education money could by, molding an intelligence which becomes unexpectedly useful when one sacrifices their cushy existence to live among thieves. And to cap things off, he has one ambition, one direction, one allegiance to answer to. True, he acquired it through his parents’ murder, a tragedy no one wants. But as exemplified in George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, it is familial and romantic Love that keeps a man from upholding Honor to its extreme. Bruce Wayne has everything to push him forward and nothing to hold him back from becoming and executing Batman.
Could we, could I ever aspire to the same? I read a fun hypothesis- Becoming Batman by E Paul Zehr which questions the possibility of becoming a superhero. While it goes into a lot of fun biology, exercise science, comic book lore and martial arts technique, the one that remains is unfettered ambition. Could I drop everything, everyone, every other distraction and relentlessly pursue one target for the rest of my life?
Last night, I beat my “100 burpees for time” score. I also chipped my tooth in the process. Trust me to wreck havoc upon myself in the most unlikely way.
You would I think I might have bruised a knuckle or knee what with all the intentional falling. A burpee for the blissfully ignorant, is basically a jumping push up. You fall in perfectly poised push up position, only to press up, jump feet up under you, and vault yourself to standing only to fall down again. Think vinyasa’s chaturunga on speed.
Within the first 20 seconds of the exercise, I banged my chin on the ground, sending my jaw up a little too hard and there goes a small piece from my left lateral incisor. The scene progressed as thus:
Me: Fuck, I chipped my tooth.
Nic: Everyone else keep going. You alright?
Me: Yeah, I think so.
Nic: Then KEEP GOING
I tied for second best time in women’s category with two other girls at 8:31mins. And it’s not that big a chip really. Just another amusing story in my year of strange accidents.
There is not enough arnica to save me from looking like a rape victim at this moment. “Rape survivor” as Nik my kettlebell trainer joked, “like you beat the guy up and got away.” Kidding aside, I’ve got an interesting bruise from a double hang clean workout FROM LAST WEEK, a brown-red blemish on my right shoulder from rolling in the pirate fight, remnants of kickboxing bag work littering my shins, and inexplicable watercolors pockmarking my outer thighs. Really I have no idea where they came from. I realize that I have a sensitive epidermal that takes a shining to shiners, but this is getting ridiculous. I want to keep my activity level high but don’t want to start worrying people. I can’t be a stunt woman looking constantly like a bruising blushing flower. There’s no intervention to stage, no abusive relationship to run. Indeed if it were just the one activity or other, it could be more easily explained away. As an actor, my body is my instrument and until further notice, increasingly becoming a canvas as well.
Closing night at McCaw Hall and I was holding my abs in for all it’s worth. The line in the women’s room resembles a chorus line cattle call. Despite my most heterosexual preferences, I was checking out the calves on every single woman. They all were exquisite. This doesn’t even include the men, who are invariably lanky, refined, with a hint of european. Dancers, their art, and the world they live in- fascinate, enthrall, and intimidate me.
As the orchestra warmed into A, the aristocratic airs of this audience were set aside and we collectively became children, delighting in the audacious pantomine of Don Quixote, performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
My caveat before I continue. I am a straight up actor, often on the rocks, but rarely with soda and never with the juice that propels these human hummingbirds around a stage for the better part of 3 hours. I don’t know, don’t pretend to know how this insular world of dance works. However while sitting through two intermissions in two separate parts of the house (yeah free seat stealing!), I noticed how differently this audience engages with its patroned art.
The contradiction still baffles. Here are all these poised and well dressed afficiandos of culture giggling like school kids as Sancho wrestles with a fish. There they are again, suspending ample doses of disbelief to believe that Lorenzo couldn’t find his mischevious daughter Katri as long as she stood upstage covered in a sheer sheet, until the local magistrate alerted him. And human cactus? A corps of six prickled the dreaming Don Quixote to no dramatic purpose and we all marveled at how like a cactus they moved, regardless that even in the worst of windstorms, cacti don’t move. Every other reviewer has been prompted to comment the expense and splendor of these fantastic costumes, designed by Jerome Kaplan. Shipping 280 costumes and celebrity choreographer Alexei Ratmansky halfway round the globe and you begin to see how PNW’s largest production to date could scale the costs of $860,000. And to all culminate in a performance so jubilantly… simple. Like right out of a fairy tale to be told children at storytime, Boal’s dancers & Peter Boal himself (making a guest appearance as Lorenzo) ecapsulated us in an escapism of color, fiery leaps, limbs that stretched passed possibility, and laughter to warm our bleak midwinter.
Still I wonder. Where in all this is Cervantes’ El Igenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha? My brushes with the story involved a dog named Wishbone and a musical called Man of la Mancha. I was looking forward to the drama of a man losing his mind to fantasy. Given all the hoopla surrounding the title actor, Tom Skerritt, can you blame my expectations? Watching him hold the audience lying supine on an empty stage at the end of Act 2, Scene 1, it made sense. Tom Skerritt is an actor and the public is accustomed to relating to actors individually and to dancers as a company. But this was hardly Skerritt’s show or Allen Galli, who played Sancho and “almost” stole the show, according to loving critics. If anything, it was Katri’s story, following her romance with the impoverished Basilio. Their dancing was a marathon that wanted to defy physics and for that alone, I was in love and overjoyed the night through.
Maybe it’s more of a statement against my aesthetic tastes; that I’m content being completely happy through the entirety of a dramatic piece. I love minor chords and shadows to amplify the beauty of the joyous.
p.s. I am wanting to write so much more than I am but each post seems to touch on some pretty intense themes I don’t think I’ll ever quite be satisfied with. Know that I know it’s a cop out…
Acting is such a bastardized Art. It cannot exist without at least two people (or a schizophrenic one). It is buoyed by other art forms of writing, sound, visual sets, textural costumes, etc. Even attempting to discuss it at any length dissolves into either self indulgent therapy or metaphors drawn from other mediums. “To act” is such a useless action just as to be an actor is to be a blank slate of humanity; as unplayable as Hamlet’s “to be” conundrum. Despite my continued study of this chimera, I have forgone most texts on the subject in favor of a more personally poignant metaphor: fighters.
Perhaps my most influential year in university was the junior year spent with The Classical Studio, one of NYU’s advanced studies with professor, director, and professional jack ass Louis Scheeder. He always talked in reference to sports which when you take it further, is just our contemporary metaphor for arena of gladiators. When the stage is a battle ground and scenes are duels to be lost or won, it really lights a fire under your ass to play the fullest and/or most persuasive extent of your actions, which is just actor-speak for getting what you want. The other acting techniques I invested in certain scenes of Thebes aren’t carrying the same way as in previous performances. The punches aren’t landing. I’ve never been good about crying on cue and it’s getting particularly tricky to feel upset having Jon-Erik die again and again at the end of Act 1. Repetitive stimulus has dulled the reaction. Thebes is coming to a close and it seems suitable I’m coming full circle, back to this basics of a fight- raw actions, focus on the other person as if they were going to punch you in the face, strong & stable center, proprioception, timing, immediate improvisation despite hours of strategy and training, and honesty in character.
It can be hard for many to consider an actor as an honest entity. Certainly I am not always honest. I am usually a terrible liar, so that leaves me somewhere in the middle. But with the lights on and camera or cue go, I can’t imagine a more honest experience of existence.
Isn’t the first step to overcoming addiction is admitting you have one? Then I am addicted to chocolate. And it seriously needs to stop.
I know of all the studies justifying chocolate as a “health” food. On some level I can agree with them. In its purest form, chocolate can pack some serious punch. It contains Phenylethylamine, or PEA which is suspected in simulating the emotional high of being in love. It also jacks up your serotonin, endorphins, neurotransmitters that literally turn you on. And all the antioxidants that prevent cancer and disease and yada yada yada.
The issue is that I don’t consume chocolate in its purest form. And justifying dark chocolate as my one dessert opens the floodgates to overpriced ‘gourmet’ bars from Whole Foods, all too frequent trips to City Bakery & Jacques Torques, and stealing my roommate’s Swiss Miss late at night. Everything in moderation, but when you simply can’t keep it in check, then it has to go cold turkey for a time.
I know why this is happening. It’s been cold, dark and depressing here this past month. I haven’t been as active, social, or well, frisky as any other time of the year. Also, as February 1 looms closer, I want to make another stab at strict paleo for a month. Legumes and grains no longer prove an issue and the only thing standing in my way is dairy and sugar, which I have so far justified away by my need for chocolate and the occasional lust for cheese. If a diversion of dietary love is what’s keeping me from drastically improving my health, it’s not worth it. All the benefits that chocolate provides I can make myself with some exercise, social and perhaps sexual interaction.
Not healthy, local, or cheap and ridiculously tempting with false prophets:
chocolate = the antichrist of my diet
Has so far involved me trying to navigate WordPress. I had a lovely conversation with the good people of Gotham Gym, opening within 2 weeks, so keep your figures crossed. Though my trainer is sick, I’ve got two ladies volunteering as my personal training guinea pigs this week, which means I need to get two workouts together without his guidance.